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Five Books That Used To Be Banned

Five Books That Used To Be Banned

Written by Lucy Rahim, guest blogger. 

As with any button that says “don't press”, the only thing to ensure that people want to read a book is to tell them not to. Whether for political, social or religious reasons, some of our most cherished books have been, at one point in time, banned by governments around the world. Here are five of our favourites.

1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll


A young girl falls down a rabbit hole and discovers a magical, topsy-turvy kingdom, filled with talking animals and ruled by the treacherous Queen of Hearts.

Who banned it and why?

As harmless as this classic children's tale may be, the Hunan Province in China banned it in 1931 because it was deemed unnatural for animals to use the human language.

Carroll’s classic was also banned across various states in America in the 1960s amid fears that it promoted drug use. Something to do with magical mushrooms and substance-induced hallucinations…

2. Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence


Connie is married to Clifford Chatterley, who is sent to fight in WW1, where he suffers serious injury, becoming paralysed from the waist down. As Clifford retreats into invalidity and intellectualism, Connie becomes bored and begins a passionate affair with Oliver Melloys, the gamekeeper on the estate.

Who banned it and why?

Long before E L James’ Mr Grey, Lady Chatterley’s Lover caused shockwaves for its frequent, and graphic portrayal of sex. Following its publication in 1928, the book was banned in both Britain and America. In 1960 Penguin Books was forced to go to court to defend their uncensored publication. In order to win, they had to prove that the novel’s literary merit trumped the graphic scenes and language. Penguin's victory was a major step towards the publication of sexually explicit work in the UK.

3. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger


Privileged American teenager Holden Caulfield recounts a weekend in which he played truant from his fancy New York school, travelling the city and encountering an old flame. Considered a modern literary masterpiece, and seen to epitomise teenage angst, the book has been one of the most taught texts in schools since the 1960s.

Who banned it and why?

Despite being an instant bestseller, the novel was consistently banned by schools and local authorities across America during the 1960s and 1970s. Parents and some teachers objected to its place in the curriculum given its use of swearing (some say we owe Salinger the phrase “to screw up”) and promotion of sex and homosexuality. Others argued that it encouraged communist and criminal behaviour; several famous murderers have apparently been big fans. Battles over censorship continue to this day.


4. Animal Farm - George Orwell

What's it all about?

Originally described as a fairytale, Animal Farm is a satire on Soviet Communism, swapping humans for livestock. Tired of their maltreatment, the animals oust their human master and take control of their farm, setting up a list of commandments to live by. At first all seems well and the community thrives, but after a time, the pigs, who have assumed leadership, begin to take more than their fare share, and become increasingly tyrannical.

Who banned it and why?

Unsurprisingly, such an open satire on the failures of communism did not go down all that well in the USSR or Cuba, where it remains banned to this day. The English version is prohibited in China, but a censored Chinese version is available. Interestingly, the book is also banned in schools in the United Arab Emirates (along with Harry Potter!) due to its inclusion of ideas and images contrary to Islam.

5. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz -  L. Frank Baum

What's it about?

An unexpected tornado sends little girl Dorothy away from her farm in Kansas to the land of Oz, where she meets a host of friendly creatures and one very wicked witch. Accompanied by her new found friends, Dorothy follows a yellow brick road to meet the mystical Wizard, in the hope that he can send her home. A bestseller since its publication in 1900, the story is considered one of America's most classic children's books.

Who banned it and why?

As with Alice in Wonderland, this children's story seems perfectly innocuous, but it has come under fire numerous times in the United States. Appeals for its removal from schools and libraries have included disapproval for its promotion of witchcraft and talking animals, as well as supporting communist ideas (there is no such thing as money in Oz, with everything shared equally) and the presentation of women in roles of leadership. 

Do you have a favourite banned book? Let us know!

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Lucy is a freelance writer, translator and Shakespeare aficionado. She blogs about food and theatre at @quirkandspoon


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